A man who claimed to have squatter's rights when he overtook a hospitalized man's empty Clairemont home appeared in court Thursday to face burglary, identity theft and battery charges.
During the court arrangement, the DA asked for a $200,000 bail but the judge agreed to lower the bail to $25,000 on the condition that Jeffrey Goddard has no contact with the victim and stays 100 feet away from the house.
Goddard, 41, was arrested on Jan. 14 from the home he'd been living in for about a week, according to investigators. Detectives said he was trying to exploit squatter's laws to steal the property.
The home was temporarily vacant after the 84-year-old homeowner was hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning in late December. The homeowner's adult daughter was found dead inside the home.
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Goddard told officers he saw news coverage of the event before entering the home, SDPD said.
As Goddard was taken into custody, he told neighbors, "It's alright, I'll be back."
A consorted effort from neighbors who witnessed the man's comings and goings helped lead to his arrest. They filmed videos and notified the police of his whereabouts.
"The whole neighborhood believes that we need to help [the homeowner]," one neighbor identified as Kathy told NBC 7. "We didn’t know him but we need to help him."
Neighbors said they witnessed the man change the locks, replace the door and even receive Amazon packages to the home.
When neighbors confronted the man, they said he claimed he could take over the property due to squatter's rights. The homeowner's family said Goddard even went as far as to pay property taxes and change utility bills to his name.
Goddard's seven family members, including his wife, appeared at his arraignment Thursday. The DA said Goddard has four kids and has a job at Southland Paving and they're expecting him back at work soon.
Neighbors contacted the homeowner's closest living relative, his niece April Todd, who resides in Texas.
Todd said she couldn't believe a complete stranger could change locks, pay her uncle's property taxes or switch the name on the utility bills. She hopes lawmakers take note of her uncle's story and make laws tougher on squatters.
"It has been a living nightmare," said Todd. "I couldn’t sleep. I would just close my eyes and I would just see this guy in my uncle’s house."
Goddard is expected back in court on Feb. 8.